Little Love has been quite energetic on our walks lately and I'm thinking it is due to several factors. First of all, her feed has been balanced to contain more protein. Secondly, her feet are feeling lots better (partly a direct result of the change in feed). Thirdly, the paddock is quite muddy, so the horses aren't moving a lot while outside. And fourthly, the weather is cooler, always something that makes horses and children alike wig out a little. She is also getting into better shape, which is a good thing! However, this means that we need to keep up with her pace which sometimes is quite challenging.
Today I had planned to go to the end of the road and bit beyond. I didn't get to the barn as early as I wanted to, but was happy to see that the crowds hadn't made it out yet to the national park. So when we walked down the road the sun was shining between the trees, my dog was running ahead and there wasn't a single person or car in sight. Little did I know that that was about to change, within minutes. You would have thought there was gate at the entrance to the national forest (there isn't) and someone opened it at exactly 10.50 am because suddenly there were cars and people everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. I could have kicked myself for going for a walk on Sunday morning when the weather was brilliant. Of course there would be everybody and their mother out there, it wasn't like this was the first time this had happened.
I decided to turn home and since I had promised Little Love we would trot back at our usual spot, she was ready to go. But there was no trotting. Between the cars that were coming in and the one's leaving (apparently most people were just getting dropped off), there was no room for a horse and a person with a dog. It didn't help that everyone was trying to be very careful around my big black horse, who usually is not afraid of cars. But, when you have three of them crawling behind you, not passing but rather like stalking you, it can unnerve even the most seasoned traffic-safe horse. That coupled with the fact that Little Love really wanted to trot, turned our relaxed Sunday walk into a challenge.
I have to say Little Love was mostly polite when she jigged next to me. Yes, jigged. It was sort of like piaffe but moving forward. A few times she became a bit too energetic in this "jig" and I had to really assert myself and ask her to back up. I tried to keep my cool, but I was quite irritated to tell you the truth. She would just not walk, it had to be trot or nothing. I never, however, was worried that she would actually take off and go home, despite the fact that she even had her tail up half the time, as if she was an Arab or something. I can tell you that judging by the faces of the people driving by, she looked pretty impressive. The amazing thing is that she accepted my "discipline" (asking her to stop and back up) even thought I admittedly yanked on her face quite hard a few times. A year ago she would have either taken off without me or reared when I tried to stop her.
By the time we got to our regular grazing spot, she was so over it. In hindsight I'm starting to think it was all about the audience LOL. We headed back home and since I had promised her a trot, I grabbed her mane and clucked. She didn't need much encouragement! We trotted up the hill and I got that feeling you get when you are trotting next to a vaulting horse that is about to canter. "So, are you going to canter?" I thought. I did nothing to stop her. In fact, I may have encouraged her a bit. :-D After all, I was sort of curious to see what would happen. Little Love transitioned into a right canter and because I was on the left side, it made staying with her a little more challenging (it is easier to canter on the side of the canter, especially if you are on the "same lead"). But, we cantered up the hill, nevertheless. On the top of the hill we both went into walk, but I felt like jumping up and down from excitement. "More, more," I felt like screaming.
So, I took my dog back to the barn and headed out again, but only down the private section of the road, where there weren't all those cars. My thought was to take Lilo back to the grazing spot, let her graze for a while and then attempt the canter up the hill again since. Both Melissa and I have had a strong feeling lately that Little Love feels a need to canter and I was pretty excited that I had figured out a way to do it without actually riding her (or getting left behind).
When Little Love was grazing, I was enjoying the sun and wondering how I could get her to pick up the left lead instead of her stronger right lead when we cantered up the hill. That's when we heard the sirens. Little Love snapped her head up immediately, her nostrils flaring. What is it with horses and sirens? Not a great combination, in my experience. I suppose the siren sounds sort of like a pack of howling wolves. I thought it was perhaps a police car or an ambulance passing on the bigger road two miles away, but when the sirens grew stronger and stronger, I realized the vehicle was coming down the dirt road towards us. Little Love realized this, too. She bolted out of the field and I just about had time to grab her mane when we were already flying up the road. I realized she was quite freaked out and if I didn't slow her down, we would fly all the way back home. Or rather she would fly, I would drag.
I let go of her mane and as I ran next to her up the hill, I pulled on her face. At first she just kept going and I felt myself struggle to keep up with her. Luckily the hill gets steeper at the top and she sort of had to slow down. Which is when I got her attention. She stopped at the top, but spun around to listen for the sirens. It was completely silent. We were at the mailboxes, which is only a 100 yards from the barn, but she couldn't see her home, which made her nervous. I, on the other hand, was amazingly calm. I walked her around at the intersection a few times, asking her to slow down a bit and when she did, I turned her towards home. We walked back with adrenaline gushing in our veins but in a controlled manner.
Phew, what a day. Despite the challenges, I did learn that Little Love can perform a very slow and collected trot in hand. I also found out that I should never take her near an ambulance with its sirens on. And, most importantly, I learned that I can canter next to my horse!
PS. When we were back at the barn, we heard the sirens go on again. We never saw the ambulance, but hearing it close by was definitely enough for Little Love. I am grateful we were not walking down the road when that sight went by...